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In this chapter Elihu, turning away from the "comforters," proceeds to address Job himself, offering to reason out the matter in dispute with him, in God's stead. After a brief exordium (verses 1-7), he takes exception
(1) to Job's self-assertion (verses 8, 9); and
(2) to his charges against God (verses 10-13),
which (he says) are unjust. He next brings forward his theory of God-inflicted sufferings being, in the main, chastisements proceeding from a loving purpose, intended to purify, to strengthen, to purge out faults, to "save from the pit," to improve, and to enlighten (verses 14-24). He points out in what spirit chastisement should be received (verses 25-30); and concludes with a recommendation to Job to remain silent, and hear him out, while at the same time he expresses a willingness to listen to what Job has to say, if he has objections to offer (verses 31-33).
Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches; rather, howbeit, Job, I pray thee, hear my speech (see the Revised Version); i.e. "However you regard me personally, hear what I have to say." And hearken to all my words. Give me your full attention; do not suffer aught that I say to escape you. Elihu has a deep conviction of the importance of what he is about to utter (comp. Job 32:8, Job 32:10, Job 32:17).
Behold, now I have opened my mouth. (On the solemnity of the phrase, "opened my mouth," see the comment upon Job 3:1.) My tongue hath spoken in my mouth; literally, in my palate (comp. Job 6:30). Each word has been, as it were, tasted; that is, seriously considered and examined beforehand. My remarks will not be crude, extempore remarks; so may they be the better worth attending to.
My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart. Moreover, whatever I say will be said with entire sincerity. My heart is upright, and I shall speak "from the uprightness of my heart," without pretence, deception, or concealment of any kind. And my lips shall utter knowledge clearly. I shall say only what I know' and shall endeavour to say it simply and clearly, so that no one can mistake my meaning.
The Spirit of God hath made me. This is assigned as the main reason why Job should give his best attention to Elihu's words. Elihu claims to be quickened and informed by the Divine Spirit which was once breathed into man (Genesis 2:7), whereby man became a living soul (comp. Job 32:8). And the breath of the Almighty hath given me life; or, quiekened me—originated and preserved my life. Elihu does not, however, claim that his words are actually inspired, or that he has a message to Job from the Almighty.
If thou canst answer me; rather, if thou canst' answer thou me (see the Revised Version). Set thy words in order before me, stand up (comp. Job 23:4).
Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead; i.e. I am the antagonist for whom thou hast asked (Job 9:33; Job 13:19), ready to enter into controversy with thee, instead of God. I am thine equal, a creature like thyself. I also am formed out of the clay (comp. Genesis 2:7). Therefore—
My terror shall not make thee afraid. Thou canst feel no alarm at me; I cannot terrify thee, as God would (Job 6:4; Job 7:14; Job 9:34. etc.). Neither shall my hand (literally, my pack-saddle) be heavy upon thee. Thou wilt not feel my presence a burden, or be crushed under the weight of my words.
His exordium over, Elihu proceeds to point out what he blames in Job's discourses, and at present notices two departures from truth and right only. Job, he says, asserts his absolute innocence (verse 9); he also maintains that God deals with him harshly, as an enemy (verses 10, 11). Neither assertion is justifiable.
Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying. Elihu does not quote exactly what Job had said. He probably intended to be perfectly fair and just, but in reality he greatly overstates the truth. Job had never said the words he ascribes to him in verse 9; at best they are an inference, or deduction, from what he had said. And he had said a great deal on the other side, which Elihu overlooks (see the comment on verse 9).
I am clean without transgression, I am innocent. Job had not said that he was "clean," or "without transgression," or "innocent." With respect to "cleanness," he had observed, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one," implying that all men were unclean (see Job 14:4). Concerning ,'transgressions," he had declared, "I have sinned … Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?" (Job 7:20, Job 7:21); and again, "Thou makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth" (Job 13:26). Further, he had asked to be told the number of his iniquities and sins (Job 13:23), and declared that God kept his transgressions and iniquities sewn up and sealed in a bag (Job 14:17). With regard to "innocence," the only observation that he had made was, "I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent" (Job 9:28). What he had really asserted was his uprightness, his integrity, his "righteousness" (Job 12:4 : Job 16:17; Job 23:7; Job 27:5, Job 27:6; Job 31:5-40). And these are exactly what God bore witness to (Job 1:8; Job 2:3). It is plain, then, that Elihu overstated his ease, and, whatever his intentions were, was practically almost as unfair to Job as the "comforters." Neither is there iniquity in me. Nor had Job said this. He had frequently acknowledged the contrary (see Job 7:21; Job 13:26; Job 14:17).
Behold, he findeth occasions against me. This charge may perhaps be justified by reference to Job's complaints in Job 7:17-19 and Job 10:3-6; but the exact words are not Job's. He counteth me for his enemy. Certainly, Job had said this more than ones (see Job 16:9; Job 19:1-29. l 1). But he cannot really have believed it, or his trust in God must have failed. The fact that to the last he clung to God, appealed to him, hoped to receive judgment from him (Job 31:2, Job 31:6, Job 31:28, Job 31:35-37), is proof sufficient that he knew God was not really alienated from him, but would in the end acknowledge him and vindicate his character.
He putteth my feet in the stocks. A reference to Job's words in Job 13:27. He marketh all my paths (comp. Job 31:4, and Job 7:17-19).
Behold, in this thou art not just. It would certainly not have been a just charge to make against God, that he counted Job as an enemy; and, so far as Job's statements go, it must be admitted that he had laid himself open to Elihu's rebuke. But it is no logical "answer" to Job's charge to say, in reply to it, I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Might does not constitute right, and it is a poor way of justifying God to urge that he is all-powerful, and may do what he likes. So Cambyses was justified in his worst acts by the royal judges (Herod; 3:31); and so in an absolute monarchy it is always possible to justify the extremest acts of tyranny. Certainly God cannot act unjustly; but this is not because his doing a thing makes it right, but because his justice, is a law to his will, and he never wills to do anything that he has not previously seen to be just (see Cudworth's 'Immutable Morality,' which deserves the careful study, not alone of moralists, but also of theologians).
Why dost thou strive against him? Why dost thou insist on taking the attitude of one who contends with God, who would fain enter into a controversy with him, and force him to plead in his own defence? It is not alone his omnipotence that makes such conduct folly, but his remoteness, his inaccessibility. He cannot be forced to make answer; it is not his wont to do so; he giveth not account of any of his matters. It is presumptuous to suppose that God will condescend to reveal himself from heaven and make answer to thy overbold challenges.
For God speaketh once, yea twice. God has his own ways of speaking to man, which are not those that Job has been expecting. He speaks silently and secretly, not in thunders and lightnings, as at Sinai (Exodus 19:16-20), not by extraordinary theophanies, but nevertheless quite as effectually. Yet man perceiveth it not. Man often does net recognize God's action in this silent teaching of his. Man wants something more startling, more sensational. In our Lord's time, the Jews demanded "a sign"—"a sign from heaven;" but no sign of the kind was given them. Job now did not understand that God, whom he called upon to answer him (Job 10:2; Job 13:22; Job 23:5, etc.), was already speaking to him in various ways—by his judgments, by thoughts suggested inwardly to his heart, by the dreams and visions whereof he complained (Job 7:14).
In a dream, in a vision of the sight. So God spoke to Abimelech (Genesis 20:3-7), to Jacob (Genesis 31:11), to Laban (Genesis 31:24), to Joseph (Genesis 38:5, Genesis 38:9), to the Pharaoh whom Joseph served (Genesis 41:1-7), to Solomon (1 Kings 3:5), to Daniel (Daniel 2:19), to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:28; Daniel 4:5-18), and to many others. Sometimes men recognized such visions as Divine communications; but sometimes, probably quite as often, they regarded them as mere dreams, fancies, phantasies, unworthy of any attention. Elihu seems to hold that Divine visions came only when deep sleep falleth upon men; and similarly Eliphaz, in Job 4:13. This method of revelation seems to belong especially to the more primitive times, and the earlier stages of God's dealings with men. In the New Testament dreams scarcely form any part of the economy of grace. In slumberings upon the bed. A pleonastic addition, which must not be regarded as diminishing from the force of the precedent clause.
Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction. At such times, Elihu holds, God gives men spiritual wisdom, instructs them, makes them understand his dealings with them and his purposes with respect to them. If Job is perplexed concerning the Almighty's ways with himself, and desires explanations, let him have his ear open to the Divine teaching on such occasions, and seriously lay it to heart. He will thus, it may be, find his perplexity diminished.
That he (i.e. God) may withdraw man from his purpose; literally, from his work, assumed to be a wrongful work. Elihu regards the Divine teaching through visions as intended to elevate and purify men. Sometimes God so works upon them as to make them abandon an evil course on which they had entered. Sometimes his object is to save them from indulgence in an evil temper into which, without his help, they might have fallen. In this latter case he may occasionally hide pride from man. Elihu, perhaps, thinks that Job is unduly proud of his integrity.
He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword. By these interpositions God may even save a man from utter ruin, when, but for them, he would have rushed upon it. He may cause a person -to give up designs or enterprises which would have brought him into danger, and perhaps led to his being slain with the sword.
He is chastened also with pain upon his bed. God also speaks to men, secretly and silently, in another way, viz. through chastisements. He afflicts the strong man with a grievous sickness, causes him to take to his bed, racks him with pain there, and wrings the multitude of his bones with strong pain. But here again his purpose is kind and loving.
Be that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat. Eating and drinking are detestable to the man who is stretched on a bed of sickness (comp. Psalms 107:18, "Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death"). The chains that bind to earth fall off, and the soul is left open to loftier influences.
His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; literally, from the sight; but the Authorized Version gives probably the correct meaning. And his bones that were not seen stick out. These are general features of a wasting illness. Such illness gives the sufferer time to review thoroughly his life and cow duct, and see to it "if there be any way of wickedness in him," or any particular form of sin to which he is tempted.
Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. "The destroyers" are probably the angels to whom the task is assigned of ultimately inflicting death, if minor chastisements prove insufficient.
If there be a messenger with him; rather, an angel (see the Revised Version). It is generally supposed that "the angel of the covenant" is meant, and that the whole passage is Messianic; but much obscurity hangs over it. The Jews certainly understand it Messianically, since they read it on the great Day of Atonement, and use in their liturgies the prayer, "Raise up for us the righteous Interpreter; say, I have found a ransom." Elihu's knowledge of an Interpreter, or Mediator, one among a thousand, who should deliver the afflicted man from going down to the pit, and find a ransom for him (Job 33:24), is certainly very surprising; and we can scarcely imagine that he understood the full force of his words; but it cannot be right to denude them of their natural signification Elihu certainly did not mean to speak of himself as an "angel-interpreter, one among a thousand;" and it is not probable that he intends a reference to any merely human helper. To show unto man. his uprightness; either "to show to a man what it is right for him to do," or "to indicate to a man in what true righteousness consists."
Then he is gracious unto him; and saith. Some interpret, "Then he (i.e. God) is gracious unto him, and he (i.e. the angel) saith. Others make God the subject of both clauses. But the angel is the natural subject. Deliver him from going down to the pit. The mediating angel thus addresses God, and adds, I have found a ransom, leaving the nature of the ransom unexplained. Some notion of ransom, or atonemeat, underlay the whole idea of sacrifice, which appears to have been universally practised from the remotest times, by the Oriental nations.
His flesh shall be fresher than a child's. The chastisement having done its work, and the sufferer being delivered from death by the mediating angel, a restoration to health follows. The recovery of "flesh fresher than a child's" stands as the natural antithesis to Job's leprosy. He shall return to the days of his youth. Youthful strength, youthful vigour, youthful feelings, shall come back to him. He shall be once more as he was in the days of his prime.
He shall pray unto God, and he (i.e. God) will be favourable unto him, Being restored to God's favour, he will once more be able to address him in "effectual fervent prayer," and obtain whatever he desires of him. And he shall see his face with joy. God's face shall no longer be a terror to him, but he shall look upon it with joy and gladness. For he (i.e. God, will render unto man his righteousness. That is, will both account and make him righteous—both justify and sanctify him.
He looketh upon men; rather, he (i.e. the restored penitent) singeth before men. He is jubilant, and confesses his former offences with a light heart, feeling that now he is pardoned and restored to God's favour. And if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right. This is altogether a mistranslation. The construction of the Hebrew is simple enough, and runs thus: And he (the penitent) saith, I have sinned and perverted that which was right. And it profited me not; i.e. "I gained nothing by my transgressions—they brought me us advantage." Compare St. Paul's inquiry (Romans 6:21), "What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?" Some, however, translate, "And it was not requited to me," which also gives a good meaning°
He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light; rather, as in the margin, he hath delivered my soul from going into the pit (comp. Job 33:24), and my life shall see the light. The restored penitent is still speaking.
Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes (literally, twice and thrice) with man. Elihu, from this point to the end of the chapter, speaks in his own person. God, he says, thus works with man, through visions or through chastisements oftentimes—not in the latter case, taking vengeance on them for their sins, but graciously leading them on to a better mind and a higher spiritual condition. This is part of God's ordinary moral government, and Job has no need to suppose himself exceptionally dealt with. Elihu has reason on his side in all this, and his words may have given Job some comfort. But they did not exactly fit Job's ease. Elihu, unless supernaturally enlightened, could not possibly penetrate into the special circumstances of Job's trial. He could only try to bring his case under general laws, of which it was not an illustration; and so, though well-meant and probably of some service, his argument was no complete answer to Job's difficulties.
To bring back his soul from the pit. For discipline and correction, not for vengeance—in love and not in anger (comp. Hebrews 12:5-11, where the doctrine is set forth fully). To be enlightened with the light of the living; or, that he may be enlightened. This is God's purpose, ordinarily, in afflicting men; or, at any rate, a part of his purpose He aims at enlightening their understandings, and so enabling them to comprehend his ways, and clearly see the path which it is their true wisdom to walk in.
Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me; i.e. "Mark well what I say. Note it, and lay it up in thy heart." Hold thy peace, and I will speak. It may be conjectured that Job at this point showed some inclination to break silence and answer Elihu. But Elihu thought that he had a great deal more to say, which was of importance, and wished not to be interrupted. He therefore checked Job's utterance. Then, fearing lest he had gone too far, he made the concession of the next verse.
If thou hast anything to say, answer me. Nevertheless, i.e; if there is really anything that thou wouldst fain urge on thine own behalf at this point, speak—I am ready to hear—for I dare to justify thee; i.e. "I am anxious, if possible, or so far as possible, to defend and justify thy conduct." Then, probably, Elihu made a pause, to allow of Job's speaking; but, as the patriarch kept silence, he continued.
If not, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I shall teach thee wisdom. Elihu is certainly quite sufficiently impressed with the sense of his intellectual capacity. Job's silence may have been meant as a sort of tacit rebuke to him. Considering his youth (Job 32:6), there is something of arrogance in the whole tone of his address, and especially in his notion that he could "teach Job wisdom." It is significant that neither now, when expressly invited to reply, nor at any subsequent point of the discourse, nor even at its close, does Job condescend to make any answer at all to Elihu's speech.
Elihu's first address to Job: 1. An exposure of Job's sin.
I. ELIHU BESPEAKS JOB'S ATTENTION. This he does on four distinct grounds.
1. That what he was about to say had been deliberately, thoroughly, and impartially weighed. (Verse 2.) He was not about to open his mouth at random or under any feeling of excitement, but after having tasted every word, as it were, in his palate—a metaphor suggestive of the wise discrimination with which both his thoughts had been prepared and his language selected. "A fool's mouth poureth forth foolishness: but the tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright" (Proverbs 15:2). The conduct of Elihu is worthy of imitation by all, but especially by preachers of the gospel, who should never speak on sacred things without long, wise, painful, prayerful premeditation and preparation.
2. That what he was about to say would be uttered with the utmost sincerity. (Verse 3.) The harangues of the friends had been conspicuously lacking in words of uprightness (Job 6:25). Elihu's orations should be the uprightness of his heart.
(1) They should be pure and unmixed truth, not fancies or speculations, ancient maxims or wise apothegms, such as Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had dealt in, but ascertained facts, established doctrines, verified experiences.
(2) They should be clearly and simply stated, without any adventitious mixture of rhetoric or eloquence, without any meretricious graces of language or ornaments of diction that would only serve to hide the truth which they pretended to convey.
(3) They should be honestly and honourably meant, not advanced simply for the sake of argument, or in order to exhibit the speaker's skill, and still less with any sinister purpose as regards the hearer, but as believed to have a direct and important bearing on the subject in hand. The determination of Elihu again deserves the earnest study of Christian ministers, who, in the prosecution of their sacred callings, should remember to set forth the pare and unadulterated truth of God, like St. Paul (1 Corinthians 2:2), like St. Peter (1 Peter 4:11), and to do so with "great plainness of speech" (2 Corinthians 3:12), never seeking to exalt self (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 9:16) or to please men (Galatians 5:11; i Thessalonians Galatians 2:4), but always to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and edify the hearer (1 Corinthians 14:3; 2 Corinthians 13:10).
3. That what be was about to say was, in a certain sense, an inspiration of the Almighty. (Verse 4.) To redeem the language from a charge of superfluity, if not of presumption, it must he held that Elihu here claims to be the subject of a Divine afflatus, which so excited within his breast the convictions he then possessed that they were completely irrepressible. Once more Elihu stands forth as a pattern to the messengers of Christ, who, though not perhaps inspired exactly as Elihu was, are yet dependent on that same Spirit's teaching for a perfect understanding of what through the prophets and apostles has been revealed (1Co 2:9, 1 Corinthians 2:10; John 16:13-15), and who should aim, in addressing their fellow-creatures on Divine things, to have their hearts illumined, excited, and warmed by the light, fire, and heat of the Holy Ghost. That preacher most nearly approaches the ideal of a genuine gospel minister who can in a measure adopt Elihu's words, and describe himself as moved by the Spirit of God, enlightened and set on fire by the breath of the Almighty.
II. ELIHU CHALLENGES JOB'S REFUTATION. Job had frequently asserted that he could triumphantly repel any charges that might be brought against him (Job 13:22; Job 23:4-7; Job 31:35-37). Accordingly Elihu requests him to prepare such a vindication of himself as he had spoken of. On the supposition that Job was right, such a task should not be difficult.
1. Elihu was the sort of antagonist whom Job had desired to meet. (Verse 6.) Job had urged that his invisible opponent was not a man like himself (Job 9:32), and had craved the intervention of a daysman who might lay his hand upon both (Job 9:33). In reply, Elihu says, "Behold, I am according to thy mouth to ['of,' 'for,' or 'by'] God," meaning either
(1) I am according to thy wish unto, i.e. for or instead of God (Authorized Version); or
(2) I am like thee (sc. created) by God (Gesenius), or what appears preferable, I am as thou art unto God, i.e. I stand to him in the same relation as thou dost—I, like thyself, am his creature (Carey); or I, like thee, belong to God (Delitzsch), i.e.. I am a human being like thyself, fashioned by the hand of God, nipped off from the clay as when a potter nips off a piece of clay from the larger lump to construct of it a vessel or a human figure. Elihu's language in a striking manner recalls the Mosaic account of the creation of man (Genesis 2:7).
2. There was nothing about Elihu to intimidate Job or prevent him from replying if he could. "Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee;" literally, "and my burden, pressure, or load upon thee shall not be heavy." Job would have nothing to overpower or discourage him in making the fullest statement of his case; he would feel himself to be dealing with an equal, with one who would scorn, even if he could, to take undue advantage of his opponent. In Elihu we seem to see a type, or at least a resemblance, of the Man Christ Jesus, who, endowed with the Holy Ghost without measure, has become the Mediator and the Judge of men.
III. ELIHU DECLARES JOB'S OFFENCE.
1. That Job justified himself. He had said, "I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me" (verse 9). That Elihu does not greatly misrepresent the patriarch may be proved by comparison of the statements here made with Job's utterances previously recorded (Job 9:21; Job 10:7; Job 12:4; Job 16:7). But Elihu, it is said, does not sufficiently allow for certain other declarations in which Job admits a consciousness of natural sinfulness (Job 9:2; Job 14:4). The object of Elihu, however, was not to indicate the portions of Job's addresses and appeals that were doctrinally and practically correct, but to point out where Job had overstepped the bounds of rectitude and truth; and this he does by citing what he regards as the substance of Job's own utterances, as language that even a justified sinner conscious of his own integrity and moral purity should be chary in adopting, and should never be over-vehement in maintaining.
2. That Job condemned God. Under this head Elihu refers to the ipsissima verba of the patriarch. Infinitely jealous of his own reputation, Job had been fearfully reckless with regard to God's. Resenting with a fierce indignation the faintest whisper that might be breathed against himself, he did not hesitate to impeach the Almighty of harshness, saying, "Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy. He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths," language taken directly from the lips of Job (Job 10:13-17; Job 13:24-27; Job 19:11; Job 30:21).
IV. ELIHU EXHIBITS JOB'S ERROR. Probably the mere reproduction of Job's words was enough to convince him of their impropriety. In addition, he is reminded of the superhuman greatness of God, in which, as in a mirror, he may behold the fallacy of all that he has maintained.
1. The mistake of concluding that he himself was righteous. "Behold, in this thou art not just," i.e. thou art not right in supposing thyself to be clean and free from transgression, because, even though thy heart condemn thee not, God is greater than thy heart, and knoweth all things (1 John 3:20). "Even when we have confidence before God respecting our own integrity, our confidence may be misplaced, and our own hearts may have deceived us' (Fry). Cf. the language of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:4).
2. The foolishness of thinking God regarded him as an enemy. The exalted character and infinite power, not to say immeasurable grace, of God should have delivered him from any such misconception. Had Job adequately reflected on the Divine greatness, he would never have suffered himself to think, far less to speak, of God as an unkind Adversary and ever-vigilant Assailant.
3. The absurdity of expecting God to respond to his interrogations. God is too exalted, too lofty and glorious a being, to be questioned by man. Hence Elihu offers himself to answer Job in God's stead. Hence also preposterous is the delusion of thinking to contend with him in any court of justice, since "he giveth not account of any of his matters."
1. That if Elihu was deserving of Job's attention, much more is Christ deserving of ours.
2. That Christ's humanity affords to sinful men the greatest encouragement to approach his throne without fear.
3. That they who come to plead with Christ must be prepared to acknowledge their offences.
4. That Christ is well informed concerning all the transgressions of those for whom he intercedes.
5. That one of the greatest mistakes a human soul can commit is to say that God regards him as an enemy.
6. That the deepest folly a finite creature can perpetrate is to strive against God.
7. That the highest tribunal before which any of God's actions can be brought is his own just, holy, and loving Godhead.
Elihu's first address to Job: 2. The philosophy of Divine instruction.
I. THE METHODS OF DIVINE INSTRUCTION.
1. Through the medium of dreams. The dreams, or visions, referred to were supernatural revelations in early times imparted to men, when the spirit, probably wrapt in meditation on Divine things, was cast into a deep sleep, such as fell on Adam at the creation of Eve (Genesis 2:21). That nocturnal dreams usually find their psychological basis in the mental idiosyncrasies of the individual, and in large degree borrow their shapes and colours from the phenomena of waking existence, is no proof that God may not sometimes have employed them, and may not still employ them, as channels for imparting instruction to men. That they were so employed in early times, not only for instructing heathens like Abimelech (Genesis 20:6), Laban (Genesis 31:24), Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1), and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:5), but also saints like Abraham (Genesis 15:12), Jacob (Genesis 31:10), Joseph (Genesis 37:5), Eliphaz (Job 4:13), and Joseph the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:20), is explicitly declared in Scripture. That men cannot readily distinguish between such dreams and visions as are the creations of their own excited imaginations, and such as are sent from above, does not demonstrate the impossibility of God still in the same supernatural fashion "opening the ears of men, and sealing instruction upon their souls."
2. Through the instrumentality of affliction. The sufferer described by Elihu passes through an experience similar to Job's. The disease which assails him has many of the characteristics of elephantiasis.
(1) Painful. "He is chastened also with pain upon his bed" (verse 19), which pain, if we may take advantage of the various readings and translations of the following clause, is represented as sudden, "while the multitude of his limbs is still vigorous" (Ewald); universal, "and the multitude of his limbs with strong pain" (Authorized Version); vehement, "so that he writheth in great agony" (Cox); and incessant, "and with the unceasing conflict of his limbs" (Delitzsch); or, "and the contest never resteth in his bones" (Umbreit); or, "and the racking of his bones is incessant" (Fry).
(2) Nauseating. "So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat;" literally, "meat of desire" (verse 20). The case of IsaActs (Genesis 27:4) was exceptional. Loss of appetite and nausea are usual concomitants of a weak and sickly condition of body.
(3) Wasting. "His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen"—literally, "out of sight," which may also signify "from comeliness, so that it becomes unsightly "(Delitzsch)—"and his bones that were not seen stick out" (verse 21); or, according to another reading, "his bones waste away and disappear" ( Speaker's Commentary ), i.e. they lose their beautiful form, till eventually he becomes little better than a fleshless, bloodless, marrowless, emaciated skeleton.
(4) Destroying. "Yea, his soul draweth near to the grave, and his life to the destroyers" (verse 22); either to those angels whom God commissions to slay man when he continues impenitent, or to those destructive agencies which God employs to terminate the vital functions.
3. Through the friendly offices of an interpreter. The word "interpreter" has obviously in this place the sense of "internuncius," i.e. ambassador, or representative, who communicates the will of a superior, and indicates the special office entrusted to the "messenger" alluded to by Elihu as that of authoritatively making known, as a Heaven-commissioned teacher or prophet, the will of God. Diversity of view prevails as to whether the messenger to whom this task is deputed should be regarded as human, angelic, or Divine (vide Exposition), as a teacher, prophet, or minister like Elihu, a superhuman angelic being, or the angel of the Presence, the Messenger of the covenant. Against the first, there can be no insuperable objection; only it is obvious that in this case Elihu cannot refer to himself without extraordinary self-conceit, since he characterizes the messenger whom the sick man requires as meditator as "one of a thousand," i.e. not one of many, bat one without an equal, one possessed of pre-eminent gifts of insight and teaching. Nor is it impossible that Elihu, remembering the language of Eliphaz (Job 4:18), may have been thinking of an angelic helper; only the qualifying clause," one of a thousand," determines that one to be the Angel of Jehovah, who alone among the myriad hosts of angels stands without a peer. That a young Arabian prophet of Aramaean extraction should be familiar with the angel-interpreter is no more remarkable than that the Angel of the Lord should be known to the patriarchs.
II. THE PURPOSES OF DIVINE INSTRUCTION.
1. To deter man from sin. In particular the withdrawing of man from his purpose (verse 17), literally, from his work, generally in an evil sense, is exhibited as the specific object aimed at by God's supernatural warnings to the soul, as e.g. in the cases of Abimelech (Genesis 20:6) and Laban (Genesis 31:24); but none the less is affliction designed to exercise on wicked men a deterrent influence, restraining them from sin, as in the cases of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:16) and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:12); while the third method of instruction referred to, that of spiritual enlightenment (whether human or Divine as to its agency,) distinctly contemplates as its aim, among other things, the subjugation of evil impulses in the soul, and the obliteration of evil deeds from the life, of man (John 15:3; John 17:17; i Thessalonians John 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16).
2. To withdraw man from pride. Pride is the homage which a human soul pays to itself, the arrogant assumption by self of that worship which is due to God. The great sin to which man in innocence was tempted by the devil (Genesis 3:5), it has ever since been a characteristic of the fallen heart (Psalms 10:2), which, seemingly oblivious of its weakness, is always looking out for symptoms of its power, styling itself a geber, "a strong one," a valiant hero, when in reality it is an enosh, "a frail and feeble creature" (cf. the Laodicean Christians). Besides being extremely foolish in itself, and infinitely dangerous to the subject of it, such a disposition and mind is intensely hateful to God (Psalms 101:5; Proverbs 8:13; Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 50:31; 1 Corinthians 1:29; James 4:6), who, by the threefold ministry above specified, aims at its complete extirpation from the human heart—first checking its outward manifestations by providential warnings, supernatural or otherwise, as in the cases of Hagar (Genesis 16:9), Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:2-10), David (2 Samuel 24:10), and Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:13; 2 Chronicles 30:1-27, 2Ch 1:1-17 :31); then striking at its inward roots by the sharp axe of affliction, as he did with Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1-25; et seq.), Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:30-34), Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:19-35); and finally, by the personal example and teaching of Christ (Matthew 11:29) casting it out, and hiding it, from the souls of those in whom such affliction is sanctified.
3. To deliver man from ignorance. More specifically is this declared to be the' object contemplated by the "Maleach Malitz." Sinful man is pre-eminently in darkness concerning "his uprightness;" i.e. either God's rectitude and justice in dealing with individuals (Carey), or, what seems preferable, man's right course to be followed (cf. 1 Samuel 6:12; Proverbs 14:2)—the path which he ought to pursue when lying under God's chastening hand; "in one word, the way of salvation, which he must take in order to get free of sin and death, the way, viz; of repentance and of faith" (Delitzsch, Good, Fry, Cox, and others). In large measure this absence of moral and spiritual enlightenment as to the way of salvation accounts for man's hardness and impenitence of heart. Consequently, the Divine administration has provided for bringing the needful illumination to man's benighted soul by means of a special Angel-Interpreter (first Christ, then the Holy Ghost, and, under them, the angels or ministers of the Churches); and the time selected for sending in a flood of heavenly light upon man's darkened understanding is the season of affliction, when, his pride having been laid low, his heart has become soft and amenable to instruction.
4. To save man from death. It is unreasonable to insist that Elihu knew nothing of a spiritual deliverance of the soul from condemnation and everlasting death, and that his language (verses 18, 24, 30) about the pit must be confined exclusively to the grave. On the other hand, it would be equally preposterous to deny that Elihu does hero allude to the temporal and physical recovery of a sick man as the result of accepting with penitence and faith the teaching of the Angel-Interpreter; as e.g. in the case of Hezekiah, to whom Isaiah acted in the capacity of a "Maleach, Malitz," and who, in answer to his prayers and tears, was restored to health (Isaiah 38:5), and as in early Christian times the invalid who called for the elders of the Church and listened to their instructions was directed to hope that in response to the prayer of faith God would raise him up (James 5:14, James 5:15). The probability is that both forms of deliverance were in the contemplation of Elihu:
(1) of the sinful man's soul from the pit of condemnation of which David sings (Psalms 40:2), and
(2) of the sick man's body from the pit of corruption into which Hezekiah looked (Isaiah 38:18)—the latter being the consequence as well as the sign of the former.
III. THE RESULTS OF DIVINE INSTRUCTION.
1. Emancipation. When the purpose aimed at by the Divine warnings, afflictions, and teachings is accomplished, the penitent is liberated like a captive from his bondage, like a prisoner from his confinement, this being in all probability the import of the word translated "deliver," which occurs nowhere else; and this emancipation of the chastened soul is minutely depicted by the speaker.
(1) Its primal source is the grace of God (verse 24). To the true penitent God is pitifully inclined, regarding him with tender mercy and foraying love; and in this Divine emotion towards man all redemption has its rise (Psalms 3:8; Psalms 68:19, Psalms 68:20; Psalms 86:15; Isaiah 45:21; Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:8; Titus 2:11). Not that God either can or will pardon any on the ground simply of their penitence, without the intervention of an atonement; but that, wherever genuine contrition exists, there God is merciful and gracious (Psalms 51:17; Isaiah 57:15), while he neither is nor can be forgiving and benignant towards the impenitent and rebellious (Isaiah 1:20).
(2) Its essential nature is deliverance; both physical and spiritual, both temporal and eternal (vide supra), the latter being symbolized by the former, the recovery of the soul to God's favour and fellowship by the restoration of the body to health and vigour. The sick man, who has been reduced by disease to a thin, feeble, emaciated, transparent skeleton, begins to put on flesh till his well-covered bones become fat and plump, as if he had returned to the days of his youth like Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:14); and in this is vouchsafed to him a visible token of God's returning favour.
(3) Its meritorious ground is the ransom or redemption-price paid for getting free from captivity or death (Exodus 21:30; Exodus 30:12; Isaiah 42:3), that ransom being not the repentance (Hofmann, Carey) or the sufferings (Umbreit) of the chastened one, but the mediatorship of the Angel (Delitzsch, Cook, Fry)—a thought in which "we readily recognize a presage of the mystery unveiled in the New Testament, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." To pronounce such a doctrine in the mouth of Elihu "an anachronism," is to forget the protevangel of Eden (Genesis 3:15), and to gratuitously assume that outside the line of the chosen family in patriarchal times faith in this sublime gospel had become entirely extinct. To affirm that such an anachronism (so-called) is "rebuked by the plain and obvious sense of the passage itself, and of the meaning and intention of the chapter in general" (Cox), is to demonstrate that one has failed to distinctly grasp the scope and purpose both of this particular section and of Elihu's interlocution as a whole. If Elihu spoke by inspiration, why should not the Spirit of Christ which was in him (1 Peter 1:11) have testified beforehand of the work of him who, when he came to earth, was to give his life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28), and all the more that the finding of such a ransom was a work transcending human ability, and requiring as is here declared the intervention of God himself?
2. Acceptation. As a next result of Divine teaching, of accepted warnings, sanctified afflictions, improved instructions, the subdued penitent, now admitted into the Divine favour, receives a recompense for his righteousness, i.e. a gracious reward for his having turned to God in contrition (cf. Isaiah 64:5), and for his upright conversation generally, or is henceforth regarded and treated as a righteous or justified person; the treatment accorded to him and the reward bestowed upon him being the same, and comprised in three inestimable privileges.
(1) Free access, to God's throne. "He shall pray unto God (verse 26). Prayer is the language of the newborn spirit (Acts 9:11); a necessary characteristic of God's children (Romans 8:15); the imperative duty of all men (Psalms 62:8; Isaiah 65:6; Luke 18:1-43 :l); and a special privilege of believers (Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:22). The pardoned slither enjoys the fullest liberty to address God in prayer when, where, and how he will (Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17), provided always, of course, he does so in faith (Hebrews 11:6), in the Name of Jesus Christ (John 14:13, John 14:14), and for things agreeable to God's will (1 John 5:14).
(2) Certain enjoyment of God's favour. "He," i.e. God, "will be favourable unto him" and to his petitions. God never says to any of the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye me in vain" (Isaiah 45:19), but, on the contrary, expressly engages to fulfil the desires of them that fear him (Psalms 81:10; Psalms 91:15; Isaiah 65:24; Jeremiah 29:12; Zechariah 13:9; Matthew 7:7; John 16:23; 1 John 5:14). "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight n (Proverbs 15:8). "The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29). Greater encouragement to "continue instant in prayer" can scarcely be imagined.
(3) Filial joy in God's presence. "He," i.e. the pardoned sinner, "shall see his," i.e. God's "face with joy." Now by faith coming before him as a happy child exulting in a father's love (Ephesians 2:18); and hereafter in heaven when as one of the glorified he shall stand before the throne (Psalms 17:15; Revelation 22:4).
3. Jubilation. Like Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:20) and like David (Psalms 40:3; Psalms 104:33), the recovered sick man and accepted penitent breaks forth into singing. "He chanteth unto men and saith" (verse 27), the burden of his anthem being:
(1) A humble acknowledgment of sin. "I had sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it was not requited unto me." Confession of sin, though indispensable to forgiveness (Leveticus 26:40-42; Joshua 7:19; Proverbs 28:13; Psalms 32:5; Hosea 5:15; Luke 18:13; 1 John 1:9), is never so frank, full, or fervent before conversion as after it. The justified sinner sees more clearly than the newly awakened penitent the exceeding heinousness of sin, realizes more acutely the greatness of his own personal guilt, and appreciates more highly the Divine clemency in passing by the transgression he might justly have visited with condign punishment.
(2) A hearty acknowledgment of grace. Not only does he magnify the Divine clemency in not requiting to him his evil deeds, but he extols the Divine loving-kindness in delivering his guilty soul from condemnation and death. "He hath delivered my soul from going down into the pit, and my life rejoiceth in the light." Cf. David's anthem (Psalms 103:1-5).
1. The extreme anxiety with which God seeks man's instruction.
2. The natural insensibility of man to Divine teaching.
3. The efficiency with which God can seal instruction on the human heart.
4. The indebtedness of wicked men to God's restraining grace.
5. The folly as well as sin of indulging in pride.
6. The inevitableness of man's destruction unless God interposes to save.
7. The beneficent design of affliction.
8. The facility with which God can destroy the pleasantness of life, and conduct even the strong man to the grave.
9. The infinite mercy of God in providing man with an Angel-Interpreter and a ransom.
10. The impossibility of any man escaping the pit unless God says, "Deliver."
11. The blessedness of the man whose sins are pardoned, and whose transgression is covered.
12. The obligation lying on all saints to declare what great things God hath done for their souls.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Elihu's first discourse: the guilt of man in the sight of God.
I. JOB'S CONFIDENCE IN HAS INNOCENTS CENSURED. (Job 33:8-11.) Elihu gathers up in brief some of those sayings of Job which had shocked his ear and scandalized his spiritual conscience. Job had asserted his own purity, and had accused God of enmity against his person (compare Job's words, Job 9:21; Job 10:7; Job 16:17; Job 23:10; Job 27:5, Job 27:6; Job 10:13, seq.; Job 19:11; Job 30:21).
II. THE TRUE RELATIONS OF MAN TO GOD SET FORTH. (Verses 12-30.) By many intimations of inward and outward experience God seeks to warn man and to bring him to himself He is no Being of passions such as Job represents him; "higher than a mortal," it is no part of his nature to crush in anger and revenge a defenceless creature. Nor is he dumb, voiceless, cold to his creatures' cries and appeals, as Job thinks. He speaks again and again; but the fault is in the deafness and dulness of the listener (verses 12-14). Some medes of Divine instruction are then described.
1. The voice of conscience in dreams. (Verses 15-18.) The ear is opened; the sensuous nature is stilled, the imagination is kindled into life; memory unlocks her stores; the past suggests the future; and thus hints and warnings are" stamped upon the instruction" of the soul. These are not merely facts of a past age of the world. If the Divine instruction by dreams was ever real, it is real still. The study of the physiology and psychology of our dream-life may yield a fund of interest of a directly religious kind to all who believe our nature to be in immediate intercourse with the unseen and the Divine. We are still warded and comforted of God in dreams. The purpose of these communications is to restrain man from evil; to hide pride from him, that is, so that he ceases to indulge it; to keep back his soul from the grave; to warn him against death and all that is deadly—against the sudden oncoming of the fatal blow. Whatever view be taken of the subject of special visions and communications from the other world, it is open to us all to observe how in our physical constitution we are never without warnings, forebodings, timely hints, of coming pain and disease; how in our moral constitution in like manner coming events of retribution cast their shadows before, and rouse us from the stupor of guilt and shame. A kindly voice is ever calling us in these ways to flee from the wrath that is to come.
2. Severe sickness as the visitation of God. (Verses 19-22.) Buffering is felt to be chastisement. When all the frame is unstrung, when the sweet sense of life turns to loathing, and the body wastes away, and death draws near, then man feels his dependence on a higher power; then often for the first time learns to pray, to believe in God, and to feel his nearness and his goodness. No doubt there was much of superstition in ancient times with regard to supposing suffering to be a direct visitation of the anger of God. But while we get rid of the superstition, let us preserve the truth of which it is a distortion—that in this mixed constitution of ours the proper effect of pain is to lead the mind to the Author of all that we both enjoy and suffer. "In some constitutions affliction seems peculiarly necessary as a hint of God. Some trees will not thrive unless their roots be laid bare; or unless, besides pruning, their bodies be gashed and sliced. Others that are too luxuriant need their blossoms to be pulled off, or they will yield nothing. Rank corn, if it be not timely eaten down, may yield something to the barn, but little to the granary. Every man can say he thanks God for ease; but for me, I bless God for my troubles" (Bishop Hall).
3. The ministry of angels. (Verses 23-28.) Literally in the last verse the "destroyers" are the "angels of death," sent upon their fatal errand by the Almighty. In contrast we have now the mention of the good, delivering angel who brings release from the doom. The ministering angel draws near to the penitent sufferer in compassion, and says, "Relieve him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom? In the forms of the poetical imagination, an unexpected recovery from deadly sickness is thus described. Then returning health covers his flesh again with the bloom of youth; the sorrow vanishes from his mind; it is once more summer in the soul. He prays to the Almighty, and is graciously heard and accepted; he basks in the sunshine of God's countenance; and the lost peace is restored to the purified conscience. And the heart breaks out into singing, for a new song is put into the restored one's mouth—a song of praise to God. And this is its burden: "I had sinned and perverted right; but it was not requited to me; he redeemed my soul, that I might not go into the grave, and my life sees his pleasure in the light" (comp. Isaiah 22:23, seq.; Isaiah 51:17). Such is the portion of the man who hears the rod, and who has appointed it; who bows beneath affliction only to rise to s purer height of spiritual joy. His sins are pardoned, his good endeavours accepted, his crosses sanctified, his prayers heard; everything that he has is a blessing to him, everything that he suffers an advantage.
CONCLUSION. (Verses 31-33.) These are the dealings of God with man; this the purport of all his afflictions. Experience seals the truth. Let Job or any other gainsay or refute it if he will or can! But rather this strong deep personal conviction of Elihu will vibrate and awake a response in the sufferer's heart. There is a contagion in true faith. Oh for the victory that overcomes the world! Once realize God to be our God, our Refuge and Strength, our present Help in trouble, and earth or hell in vain labour to make us other than blessed.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Job 33:1 -38,
The Divine correction.
In the self-assurance of his competency to give wisdom to Job, and to correct his errors and to solve the mystery of his affliction, Elihu continues his speech and invites reply. "If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up." He makes his accusation against Job that he has not only affirmed his own innocence, but that he has also made charges against God. He then proceeds to vindicate the purposes of God in human affliction. "God speaketh once, yea twice;" the error is on man's part, who "perceiveth it not." He gives a view of the Divine corrections.
I. AS TO THEIR METHOD. The God that "is greater than man," who worketh secretly and "giveth not account of any of his matters," giveth instruction:
1. In a dream, in the visions of the night; opening the ears of men, and sealing their instruction.
2. By the severities of affliction; when man is "chastened with pain upon his bed." This is applicable to Job; and the former may have been mentioned gently to introduce this.
II. AS TO THEIR PURPOSE. This is always gracious. It is to save from impending danger, and to lead in safe and good ways.
1. To restrain man from evil paths. "To withdraw him from his purpose."
2. To hide pride from man. To bring down the high looks of the self-complacent and the wicked.
3. To save from untimely death, and from the weapons of destructive violence. To keep "his life from perishing by the sword." Sin tends to death both by natural causes and by violence. Then Elihu views these corrections—
III. IN THEIR HAPPY RESULT.
(1) Should the mediating Counsellor be near, and the way of life, the right way—the way of righteousness—be pointed out; and
(2) the smitten one return with repentance, saying, "I have sinned, and perverted that which was right;" and
(3) lifting up his voice "pray unto God;" then
(4) shall the Divine deliverance come:
(a) in an expression of the Divine forbearance;
(b) in admission to the Divine favour—"he shall see his face with joy;"
(c) in a gracious restoration, delivering "his soul from going into the pit'" and bringing him to rejoice in the light.
This is the Divine response to repentance which Elihu urges upon Job. Happy is every smitten one who, returning to God, finds a ransom price paid for his soul, and rejoices in a deliverance which restores to him the days of his youth, when "his very flesh becometh fresher than a child's."—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The inspiration of creation.
Elihu assures Job that he is a man, made by God, and by his very creation having the Spirit of God in him. There is some pretentiousness in the manner of Elihu. Yet what he says is important, because it is not true of him alone, but of every man.
I. MAN IS MADE BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
1. His origin is outside himself. Whatever man can do for himself, he certainly cannot make himself. When we come back to the question of origins, the most self-reliant person must confess that he could not have caused his own being.
2. His origin is from God. Man derives his life originally from the First Cause of the whole series of living creatures. Whether man was created immediately out of the dust of the earth, or, as evolutionists teach, mediately, through other creatures, he in common with all things living derives his being from the great Parent of nature. Evolution does not destroy creation; it only describes the process, and throws back the time of the beginning of creation.
3. His origin is in the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God at first brooded over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). When man appeared God breathed into him the spirit of life (Genesis 2:7). The Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. In his spiritual nature man is especially related to the Spirit of God. He is a spark from the eternal Sun.
4. His very existence is maintained by the Spirit of God. Man lives only because God lives in him. By nature his life is an inspiration from heaven. At any moment, if God were to withdraw, man would perish. "In him we five, and move, and have our being." Thus not only the original creation, but also the present life, should be regarded as inspired by God.
II. THE INSPIRATION OF CREATION IS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE.
1. The Maker may be known by his work. All creation reveals God; but man, the highest creature, most fully expresses the Divine. To us there can be no higher revelation of God than that which is made through a perfect man. Therefore the incarnation of Christ is our most complete vision of the Father. But all men are in a measure revealers of the hand that made them.
2. The spiritual nature of man is a type of God. All nature reveals God; suns and stars, trees and flowers, birds, beasts, and fishes, give lemons of the Divine; but they do so through their material structures. Man reveals God in the constitution of his spiritual nature. He is not merely the building that sets forth the ideas of the Architect; he is the child, himself made in the image of the Father. His spiritual nature is essentially like God. who is Spirit. Thus he is made in the image of God.
3. The indwelling of the Spirit of God is a permanent revelation of God. God not only makes himself known by what he has done, he is daily revealing himself by his present life in our midst. Nature is not like a fossil that shows in its dead lineaments the traces of an old-world life; she is a mirror of the Divine activity. Our own souls are witnessing to God by their vitality. The dwelling of God within us is a continuous proof that he lives, that he works, that he loves. We know what God is now by what God is now doing in our hearts and lives.—W. F. A
Job 33:6, Job 33:7
The human mediator.
Elihu declares that his attitude towards God is just the same as Job's. He stands like Job in respect of God. He is a mortal man formed out of the clay. Then, though Job dreads the awful, invisible God, he may listen to a fellow-creature without fear. If he cannot find God in the darkness, he may be cheered and strengthened by feeling the presence of a brother-man. He may take his lessons from Elihu quite simply and naturally as from one like himself. In these ideas Elihu shadows forth what may be perfectly realized in Christ. It was a mark of Elihu's confident vanity for him to speak as he did. But his words, somewhat superfluous as regards himself, set him forth in a striking light as a type of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I. WE NEED HUMAN SYMPATHY IN RELIGION. Although man is made in the image of God, and although his very life is a constant inspiration, and depends on the presence and power of God, still God is invisible, God is great, God is an infinite Spirit. The soul of man hungers for brotherly sympathy. We all want to feel the fellowship of one who is like ourselves.
1. That we may understand aright. We cannot understand a being of a different species from ourselves. We cannot even comprehend the meaning of our own dog when he looks up at us with pathetic eyes, for we are of another species.
2. That our affections may be awakened. We most naturally love one who is kindred to ourselves. The difficulty of loving God is to perceive that there is that in him which is akin to our own natures. When he appears strange to us we shrink from him; we cannot reach out to him in confidence and joyous emotion.
II. CHRIST BRINGS US HUMAN SYMPATHY IN RELIGION. We must not think of him as standing half-way between us and God. Such a Christ would be a monstrous being—neither one with us nor one with God. United with the Father on the Divine side. our Lord is a perfect Man on the human side.
1. He is intelligible to us. We can see him, hear him, understand him. And he has told us that when we see him we see the Father (John 14:9).
2. He wires our heart's affections. His kinship makes this possible; his brotherly love makes it actual; his great work and death for us perfect his hold upon us. Thus our hearts are drawn out to God by the sympathy of Christ.
III. MEN SHOULD SHOW HUMAN SYMPATHY IN RELIGION. What Elihu aimed at, what Christ realized, that is the ideal for us. Without the ostentation of the young Buzite, we are called upon to remember our human nature when we try to help our fellow-men in religious as well as in others matters. There is a sort of sanctimonious spirituality which ignores humanity. This is disgusting to men, and it is the cause of much popular aversion to religion. We cannot help our fellow-men till we recollect we are human like them—frail, fallible, mortal; nay, sinful, fallen, ourselves needing a Saviour. Brotherly sympathy is the first essential for helpful religious influence.—W.F.A.
I. THE ADVENT OF THE DIVINE VOICES. Elihu reminds us of Eliphaz, yet with a difference. Both men believe in superhuman influences, in God-sent messages, But Eliphaz tells of a stately vision, an awful and overwhelming apparition; Elihu, on the other hand, is satisfied with dream-voices. God approaches man in various ways. The most awe-inspiring is not necessarily the most instructive. Dreams have been continually recognized among the channels of Divine communication, e.g. the stories of Joseph and Daniel and the prediction of Joel (Joel 2:28). It is very easy to misinterpret a dream, and to attribute to a Divine impulse what only springs from the vagaries of one's own fancy. We need some assurance that the voices are from God. Now, the test is in their character. All holy thoughts proceed from God, and none that are unholy. When we are visited by a holy thought, whether in sleep or in waking hours, we may rejoice with gratitude to know that God has spoken to us.
II. THE REPETITION OF THE DIVINE VOICES. "God speaketh once, yea twice." Pharaoh's dreams were repeated (Genesis 41:32). Joseph's different dreams reiterated the same message (Genesis 37:9). Prophet followed prophet with warning and promise for Israel. The new Christian voice followed the old Jewish voice. God is speaking now, sending one message after another in his providence. We have all heard from God more than once. His was the Voice that instilled the first eager desires for goodness in childhood, and his the voice that pleaded amid the passionate enthusiasms of youth. It has sounded in our ears repeatedly among the varied scenes of life warning against sin, and calling to Christian service. It is repeated whenever the Bible is read, whenever Divine truth is preached, whenever conscience is aroused.
III. THE RECEPTION OF THE DIVINE VOICES. Too often they are unheeded. "Man perceiveth it not." A mood of spiritual dulness may let the voices pass unheard. But this is not a natural condition. The little child is not thus deaf.
"Heaven lies about us in our infancy."
Later years deaden our perceptions, not indeed by the simple wear and tear of life, but by the evil things that are engendered. Distracting worldliness and sin, the deadliest foes to the heavenly voices, make us careless of the messages from God.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF THE DIVINE VOICES. They are to guide and save. "To withdraw man from his purpose," when that purpose is evil or dangerous. "To hide pride from man," i.e. to save man from his pride. Thus the voices are warning and deterrent. They remind us of the "demon" of Socrates, which, he said, told him when he was not to do something, but did not prompt him to do anything. We know that God inspires for action, that heavenly voices summon to toil and battle. Yet perhaps we may perceive that the inner voice is more often a restraining than a stimulating voice. For the stimulus we look to the living Christ. Yet the restraint is sent in mercy. God warns, that he may save.—W.F.A.
Elihu now approaches his own special and new contribution to the great controversy. God addresses man in various ways. First he speaks with the still, small inner voice of conscience. But when the repetition of this voice is unheeded he proceeds by another method, and calls attention through the rousing voice of chastisement.
I. SUFFERING IS CHASTISEMENT. As he elaborates his thought we see what Elihu is making clear. Suffering is not the vindictive punishment of sin; nor is it the work of a malignant or even of an indifferent being. It is sent by God for the wholesome discipline of his children. No doubt this discipline is often rendered necessary by sin, and when it is so chastisement is virtually punishment; but even then it is punishment with a merciful end. It is the rod that corrects, not the gallows that ends a career without hope. It looks forward to better things; it is directly designed to help and bless and save. But often it is not connected with sin. It is the wholesome discipline that seasons the soldier with hardship.
II. CHASTISEMENT IS A DIVINE MESSENGER. The poor sufferer, "chastened also with pain upon his bed," is not deserted by God. He is tempted to look upon his trouble as a proof that God has left him, if it is not a sign that God has become his Enemy. But both ideas are wrong. God is neither inimical nor negligent. The very suffering is a sign of God's present care. It is a process by means of which he is bettering his child. Therefore it is a message of mercy. Yet it is not always possible to discern the mercy in the message. Still, the message is not fruitless. Perhaps there was a danger of too much self-confidence; pride was creeping in; success was lifting up the soul to dangerous heights. Then the chastisement came to cast down and humble. At first this seemed harsh and hurtful. But on reflection it is seen to be the very thing needful for saving the better life and refining it.
III. THE SUFFERING OF CHASTISEMENT SHOULD DRIVE US TO GOD. Perhaps we would not heed him in the cheerful hours. Now we need him. The voices that were drowned in the noisy scenes of pleasure may steal into our ears in the lonely watches of pain. Thus we learn to trust in the darkness.
"Lord, in thy sky of blue
No stain of cloud appears
Gone all my faithless fears,
Only thy love seems true.
Help me to thank thee, then, I pray;
Walk in the light and cheerfully obey.
"Lord, when I look on high,
Clouds only meet my sight;
Fears deepen with the night:
But yet it is thy sky.
Help me to trust thee, then, I pray;
Wait in the dark and tearfully obey."
The messenger and the ransom.
Elihu shows that God has three ways of speaking to man—by inward voices (Job 33:14-18), by the experience of chastisement (Job 33:19-22), and now lastly by a living messenger (Job 33:23-26).
I. GOD SPEAKS BY A MESSENGER. It is a question whether we should understand the word rendered "messenger" in the usual sense attached to it, i.e, as standing for "angel." God has spoken through angel-messengers from the days of Abraham. But any one charged with a Divine message becomes God's angel to those to whom he delivers it. Every prophet is God's messenger, one who speaks for God. The apostle is one sent forth by Christ. Angels, prophets, apostles—they are all, so far, the same. They are God's missionaries. Christ is once called an Apostle (Hebrews 3:1), because he too was sent forth by his Father (1 John 4:14). Our Lord's mission on earth was to bring the new message of salvation from heaven, and to make it a real and living thing among men. Every true follower of Christ is called to be a messenger from God to his fellow-men. People will listen to the human voice when they are deaf to the pleadings of conscience and blind to the teachings of experience. The true preacher is God's messenger. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
II. GOD'S MESSENGER BRINGS A RANSOM. It is contrary to the whole course of historical revelation, which develops truth by slow degrees, to suppose that the ransom intended by Elihu was the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Such an anachronism implies an entire lack of perspective in the view of the interpreter. Nevertheless, the essential ideas of a ransom are here brought forward.
1. Deliverance. It is the duty of God's messenger to preach "deliverance to the captives." He is more than a revealer of truth; he is a herald of salvation.
2. A costly method. Elihu may have no conception of the price of redemption. Yet he perceives more or less dimly that some ransom must be paid. We have a much clearer view of the subject, because we can read it in the light of history. We now know that our deliverance is effected through the death of Christ. "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
III. THE DIVINE RANSOM SECURES A GLAD WELCOME FROM GOD. The message may seem to come in stern tones of anger, following a John the Baptist preparation of chastisement. Yet it is a gospel. Job 33:26 paints a glowing picture of the redeemed man.
1. Acceptable prayer. Until he was ransomed his prayer seemed to be in vain. Now God hears it with favour.
2. The beatific vision. "He shall see his face with joy." Reconciled to God, he rejoices in communion with God.
3. Restoration of righteousness. "He restoreth unto man his uprightness." This is the grand human result of redemption. Deliverance from doom is not enough, is not the chief end. The restoration of the broken and defiled image of God to its original, or more than its original, beauty is the great outcome Of the redeeming work of Christ.—W.F.A.
The restored penitent.
I. THE CONDITION OF RESTORATION. The redeemed man is represented as chanting a grateful psalm in recognition of his merciful deliverance. In this psalm he both acknowledges his guilt and recognizes that he has not been treated as he deserves. Guilt is a fact to be first of all owned. There is no forgiveness without confession. Even when a man is forgiven, though God may put aside his guilt, the man cannot do so. The thought of what he has been delivered from heightens his gratitude while it deepens his humility.
II. THE STATE OF RECOVERY. It is deliverance from death—"the pit." Death is the natural penalty of sin. But when God forgives and restorers he does more than remit the penalty. Salvation is far more than this negative blessing. The sin has already poisoned the life of the sinner. Already he is "dead in trespasses and sins." Therefore he needs the gift of life. Now, this positive boon comes with the great restoration of souls in redemption. God, who first gave natural life, now gives spiritual life. Thus the blessing is internal and personal. It is not a change of the soul's estate, but a regeneration of the soul itself.
III. THE SOURCE OF REDEMPTION. God himself brings about the new, happy condition of the restored penitent. He could not restore himself; no creature in the universe could give him what he needs. For the evil was death, and the requirement was a gift of life. Only he who first created life, and who ever lives in all his creatures, can renew life. Regeneration implies a Divine energy. Those forms of religion which are satisfied with man as he is may dispense with any very marked activity on God's side in religion; but when the ruin of man is acknowledged, the chief element in religion must be, not man's devotion, but God's salvation. Now, this is what we see in the Bible. There man appears in his sinfulness and helplessness, utterly unfit for heaven, or even for earthly life in its beauty and fruitfulness, and there God is seen as the mighty Deliverer coming to the rescale of his helpless child.
IV. THE METHOD OF RENEWAL. Elihu has spoken of the Divine voices, the experience of chastisement, and the personal messenger. By these means God reaches man. What else is done is not so fully seen here as in the later revelation of the New Testament, in which we discover the cross of Christ as the root of man's new life. But throughout God's dealings with man in all ages it has been apparent that there are various processes of spiritual experience through which God leads returning penitents. Therefore, if the present process is dark and mysterious and even painful, we have great encouragements for submitting to it with more than patient faith, with joyous hope, looking to the end which is, "to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living."—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 33". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14